Submitted by: Del Williams
Residential Daylighting Systems with Solar-powered Nightlight Even More Affordable with 30% Federal Income Tax Credit
Homeowners hammered by the rising cost of electricity have turned to solar in growing numbers to protect their pocketbooks. Beyond rooftop solar, one of the most popular strategies to cut electrical bills as well as functionally beautify living space is residential daylighting, which directs natural daylight far into the home via inconspicuous rooftop domes and highly reflective tubing in place of costly electrical lighting.
Now residential daylighting has become even more affordable with the introduction of a solar-powered nightlight capability that qualifies such systems for a 30% federal income tax credit. Unlike a tax deduction, which merely reduces your taxable income, the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit is actually subtracted from taxes owed and can be carried forward to future years.
For instance, since the standard systems of Solatube, a global leader in residential and commercial daylighting systems, now include a fully integrated solar-powered nightlight with photovoltaic (PV) panel and rechargeable batteries, homeowners qualify for the 30% Solar Investment Tax Credit on both the purchase of their equipment and installation. For homeowners, this means that the typical net cost of a $665 entry-level system, including installation, would be $465 after the tax credit depending on dealer pricing.
As far as design goes, the fully contained PV system is mounted inside of highly reflective tubing, where it captures and stores solar energy, and then converts it into electricity to power the soft, low-wattage nightlight. Functioning as a whole, the daylighting system allows natural light into homes during the day, while making it safer and easier to navigate hallways, kitchens, bathrooms and stairwells at night.
Because both the daylighting system and the built-in nightlight harness the power of the sun, they require no electricity and cost nothing to operate. This can reduce home electric bills and environmental impact while providing a host of other benefits.
Better Health and Aesthetics
In their busy lives, many homeowners labor under artificial electric or fluorescent lighting at work, and even at home find themselves with minimal exposure to natural light. Yet studies have shown that getting enough daylight can enhance energy, concentration, and mood – and residential daylighting is making this more accessible at home.
Compared to the often yellow or bluish hues of artificial lighting, bringing natural daylight into the home also allows true colors to be seen more vividly. In the kitchen, this means salads appear greener, tomatoes redder, and entrees more appetizing. In bathrooms, this means makeup is applied more accurately. In bedrooms and walk-in closets, this means that clothes are matched more appropriately.
While traditional skylights have long been used to allow more sunlight to enter the home, they have a number of drawbacks. Because skylights must be near the roof and often require wall construction through attic space to the ceiling, this substantially raises cost and can take several days.
From a functional point of view, skylights are prone to leaks, and sunlight directly entering the skylight can leave some areas in the home too sunny and others in shade as the sun crosses the sky. The direct sunlight also allows in a lot of heat, which increases cooling costs, as well as UV light which fades carpets, fabrics, and even hardwoods.
Unlike skylights that allow sunlight to enter only from upper levels of the home, residential daylighting systems, also known as Tubular Daylighting Devices (TDDs), can direct natural light through up to 30’ of highly reflective tubing that can accommodate 45 and even 90-degree angles. The natural light exits decorative fixtures to evenly brighten interior rooms, closets, hallways, kitchens, and more.
While skylights can be several feet across or more and require reframing or the cutting of joists or support beams, residential tubular skylights can be more effective at 10” or 14” in diameter and fit between rafters.
“By efficiently capturing daylight at the roof, transporting it through reflective tubing, and delivering it inside the home through optically engineered diffusers, a first-rate TDD can be several times more effective than a skylight or window in terms of daylight delivered with minimal heat transfer,” explains Dana Carlson, a product manager at Solatube.
The company has developed better ways to capture, transfer and deliver sunlight without the heat, UV light, or maintenance of skylights through advanced domes, ultra-reflective tubing, customizable diffusers, and other means in the past 25 years. Its photovoltaic panel powering the nightlight, for instance, is integrated within the system, where it is protected from wind, weather, shadow, and dirt. It also effectively harvests more sunlight than if placed on a roof due to patented optical technologies.
Solatube’s Raybender and LightTracker technologies, for example, capture and redirect maximum amounts of daylight into the tube, including low-angled light, such as early morning, late afternoon, and winter sunlight. Its Spectralight Infinity tubing efficiently transfers light through the system, evenly illuminating the angled PV panel and recharging the nightlight system.
This optimized system provides ample, evenly diffused, light levels by day and up to 12 hours of soft nightlighting from sundown to sun up. For convenience, a built-in daylight sensor automatically triggers the nightlight when daylight is no longer available and turns it off with the sunrise.
“Homeowners appreciate the aesthetics of brighter, natural lighting and a tubular skylight solution with a solar-powered nightlight like Solatube’s is an attractive way to achieve this,” says Ehren Jacobs, a Remax realtor in southern California, who has sold a number of homes with daylighting systems. “Unlike a skylight, you can put them in a hallway or any space, and get plenty of natural lighting while saving on your electric bill.”
From a home improvement cost, completion, and maintenance point of view, daylighting systems also top skylights.
“Daylighting systems can add resale value to a home,” says Jacobs, who notes that Los Angeles County is planning to increase electric rates for the next several years in a row. “The 30% federal tax credit only makes such a purchase all the more attractive right now.”
While skylights can take days to install, Solatube Daylighting Systems take about two hours due to a unique fastening and tube telescoping system. Attic obstructions and structural changes are avoided too, as angle adapters and extension tubing make it easy to go around rafters and joists for fast installation.
Engineered to work with all roof types – including shingle, slate, tile and metal – its powder-coated seamless flashing with one-piece metal construction also eliminates the possibility of leaks. Plus, the circular design allows rain and debris to bypass the rooftop dome, making them virtually maintenance-free.
About the Author
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California